March 18, 2014

John Richardson Harris

John Richardson Harris, early Harris County settler and founder of Harrisburg, the son of John and Mary (Richardson) Harris, was born in Cayuga, New York, on October 22, 1790. On May 7, 1813, he married Jane Birdsall. John and Jane Birdsall Harris settled near Waterloo, New York, where two sons, DeWitt Clinton and Lewis Birdsall Harris, were born. In 1819 they were living in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, where their daughter Mary Jane Harris Briscoe was born. A third son, John Birdsall Harris, was born in 1821. At Ste. Genevieve Harris met Moses Austin and decided to move to Texas. He came to Texas in his own vessel in 1824 and received title to 4,428 acres of land at the junction of Bray's and Buffalo bayous in what is now Harris County. He boarded with William Scott while he built a house on the peninsula between the bayous and a store and warehouse on Buffalo Bayou.

In 1826 he employed Francis W. Johnson to lay out the town of Harrisburg. With his brother David Harris, John Harris established a second trading post at Bell's Landing on the Brazos River. Their sloops and schooners plied between Texas and New Orleans. One of these vessels, The Rights of Man, carried eighty-four bales of cotton to New Orleans in 1828. Harris was building a steam sawmill-gristmill at Harrisburg in 1829, when he went to New Orleans to buy equipment and there contracted yellow fever. After his death on August 21, 1829, his sawmill and shipping enterprise were operated by his brothers David, Samuel, and William Plunkett Harris. His widow and son DeWitt moved to Texas in 1833; the other children came later. Litigation over Harris's estate prevented Harrisburg from becoming the seat of the new Texas government in 1836, when Houston was named instead.

Note
This is a cenotaph. John Harris died in New Orleans of yellow fever and was buried in a mass grave with other victims. His burial site is now lost.

GPS Coordinates
29° 43.218, -095° 16.456

Glendale Cemetery
Houston

 

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